AU condemns ‘racist’ statements by Tunisian authorities

Rescue vessel rescues survivors from a boat that foundered trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in 2016 . Tunisia has been the migration route for migrants and refugees heading to Europe. PHOTO | UNHCR

The African Union (AU) on Friday summoned Tunisia’s representative to the organisation over racist remarks by the country’s President Kais Saied this week targeting immigrants from the rest of the continent.

The Tunisian leader, who addressed a meeting of security officials in his country on Tuesday, called for urgent measures to stop influx of sub-Saharan Africa migrants whom he linked to crimes and claimed are part of a plan to alter his country’s demographic makeup.

In a statement, the AU indicated that deputy Chairperson Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, and Commissioner for health, humanitarian affairs and social development Minata Samate, met the permanent pepresentative of Tunisia accredited to the African Union “to register the African Union’s deep shock and concern at the form and substance of the statement targeting fellow Africans, notwithstanding their legal status in the country.”

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“The Chairperson of the African Union Commission H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat strongly condemns the shocking statement issued by Tunisian authorities targeting fellow Africans which go against the letter and spirit of our Organization and founding principles,” reads the statement released Friday by the AU’s head spokesperson, Ebba Kalondo.

Rights groups in Tunisia criticized President Saied comments terming them racist. The remarks were made amid reports of crackdown on migrants and refugees from other African countries by Tunisian authorities.

“The undeclared goal of the successive waves of illegal immigration is to consider Tunisia a purely African country that has no affiliation to the Arab and Islamic nations,” President Saied said.

Tunisia has been the migration route for migrants and refugees, including its own nationals heading to Europe.

The AU statement underlines for all countries and especially its member States to honor their obligations under international law and its relevant instruments to treat all migrants with dignity, wherever they come from, refrain from racialised hate speech that could bring people to harm, and prioritize their safety and human rights.

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